Healthy Weight Part 4
In this final January newsletter on Healthy Weight Management, I want to talk to you about food quantities.
There are a couple of main points I want to make here.
The first point is that for many people, moving from a Standard Australian Diet (SAD) to one without processed foods, will for many people be enough to start weight loss. Cutting out gluten, or dairy, or sugar (or all 3) for many people is enough to start a weight loss process. Moving to a Paelo diet, a Vegan diet, a Raw diet, a Ketogenic diet, a Vegetarian diet, a Mediterranean diet, just about any diet that you are drawn to...all these things help to bring more consciousness to what you are putting in your mouth and fueling your body with. They usually lead to better eating, and less processed, toxic, high calorie foods, which will lead to weight loss (if that is needed).
Intermittent Fasting (IF) can also start weight loss, as long as generally speaking, you actually do eat less in your eating window than you would have before. The gentle IF I refer to means not eating between dinner and breakfast.....which will cut out all those after dinner snacks. ‘Not eating after dark’ can do the same.
Eating 3 meals a day and not snacking can be enough for many to start losing weight.
For many reading these articles, they may have had an “aha” moment and have a deeper understanding of their own individual keys to weight loss.
Our cunning brain
However. There is a “but”. Our brains are very, very cunning, and the primal survival mechanisms in our lizard brain will almost certainly do whatever they can, to return us to our previous weight, and make us eat more, after the initial weight loss, and the novelty of a new diet or food focus has worn off. We can start binging on anything, we can overeat healthy foods as much as unhealthy ones. If bliss balls or raw treats are allowed in our raw vegan diet, we can overeat them. If we eat grains and bread in our vegetarian diet, we can get slack on our vegetables. If we are Paleo, we can overeat coconut oil, nuts, or fatty meats. And in the end, the recent research really does show that it is pretty much calories in, calories out.
The other point I want to make is around willpower, as I have mentioned in these articles. Relying on how we feel when we start a new diet, to sustain our enthusiasm right through times when we are stressed, upset, hungry or tired, is usually not wise. Any diet can work, really, if only we had infinite willpower to sustain the restrictions. That’s why those who come out with new diet programs, all try to make the diet as interesting and novel as possible to trick your brain into thinking you are not really on a diet, that this is actually fun, and you won’t ever miss those Doritos. But that only works for so long. Have you noticed?
I do recommend some form of measuring the quantities of what you eat, most of the time. Many of us have lost our innate sense of how much food is reasonable, because the food we have eaten (sugar, flour, processed foods) has helped to override those natural mechanisms.
One method for the truly “measuring resistent” folks, is to have a medium sized plate, and have one plate of food (healthy fresh food, lots of vegetables for lunch and dinner), 3 x a day. No seconds, no sugar, no snacks (there is actually a diet called the No S Dietwhich follows this). This can work, but it still leaves a loophole for the cunning mind to sabotage you by filling the plate with more high calorie foods (eg nuts, fats, cheese) and less low calorie, filling foods such as vegetables. It really depends on knowing yourself well enough to know if this will work for you.
If you use the techniques I have talked about in these newsletters, along with a calorie counting app such as My Fitness Pal, you will have no escape, and you will quickly learn which foods to eat more sparingly, what to fill up on, and what is a reasonable serving size. Then when you go out to eat, you can make reasonable choices and stay on your program without measuring. At home, you measure.
You are absolutely assured to lose weight if you:
- Avoid sugar and flour and all foods with them in it
- Eat 3 proper sit down meals a day, and avoid snacking (or include deliberate snacks if essential)
- Fast from dinner to breakfast and between meals (ie IF)
- Plan your food ahead/ keep a food diary
- Eat lots of vegetables for lunch and dinner
- Learn to be ok with feeling hungry sometimes
- Measure your serving size with some method that works for you.
For my weight loss clients, I use a variety of methods and often start with just introducing some new habits and healthier food choices. It’s baby steps and nourishing that sense of success. I prefer to remain flexible, and meet people where they are currently and help them move forward. Some people benefit from some supplements, some liver support, some detox support, some thyroid or hormonal support. For those who are ready, I have a more comprehensive plan that includes all of the above, including measuring quantities without measuring calories.
So there are my thoughts around healthy, sustainable weight loss. You may notice I haven’t given a one size fits all program, because we really are all so different, and our personalities respond differently. I talk about habits a lot because its really developing new habits, and learning to enjoy the freedom of having healthy limits around your eating, that will determine whether the weight stays off.
I also haven’t talked about exercise. The reason I haven’t talked about exercise is that if you focus on doing a lot of extra exercise at the beginning of your weight loss journey, you are less likely to be able to maintain both, because
- increasing exercise at the same time as decreasing your calorie intake, takes a fair bit of willpower to maintain.
- you will likely become more hungry, which will also increase the likelihood of sabotaging yourself by eating more.
- they are two separate things....exercise, and eating less. You have have to exercise a LOT to lose weight, which you then need to maintain AND watch your food intake. Change the food intake end of the equation, and you will naturally exercise for health, late on down the track and your food habits will be more established.
By all means continue your current exercise, or go for more walks if you enjoy them. But I don’t recommend starting a gym program at the same time as you decide to eat less. Wait a while.
Take it easy
One final point I wish to make before I finish part 4, is that weight loss is not easy, and when your body goes into weight loss mode, some days you can feel like crap, as all the toxins stored in your fat cells, come out to be processed through your liver. It’s actually ok to take it easy. Better to take it easy and stick to the program you are on, than keep pushing through and succumb to old habits. I believe that this is an important concept overlooked in most programs, and that it has been a key in my husband David's significant weight loss. That huge push to continuously exercise more is exhausting (especially for obese older people), on top of weight loss being exhausting too, as the body is doing a lot. Relaxing more and exercising less has actually been helpful, which seems counterintuitive. The exercise can come later.
I learned this and some of the other concepts I have written about here from Susan Peirce Thomson who wrote Bright Line Eating, and I have adapted them to individualise weight loss programs for people, as I find everyone is at a different stage in their journey and needs different types of support.